Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Day 109: Sheep Camp Spring to Highway 99

The bright orange orb of the sun pierced the dark clouds of smoke as it rose in the eastern sky. As we traversed the hillside the grassy valley was bathed in a soft, golden light. But when we reached the ridge and looked west, the valley and surrounding hills were blanketed with a thick cloud of smoke. Although we stayed above the smoke cloud following the ridge, we could nonetheless, smell and even taste the smoke as we hiked.

Our path kept alternating between tall fir and pine forests, with lush, green ferns pushing their way through the jumble of broken limbs that lined the forest floor, and meadows of tall, golden and green grasses, with a potpourri of wildflowers waving through the meadows like whitecaps rising above the sea.

After following the ridges all morning (reaching 7,030 ft), we finally began to descend. We descended past dirt roads and ski trails, past the Ashland Inn, with its thoughtfully placed, shaded picnic table and drinking water for PCT hikers, past deeply forested, spring-fed gullies crawling with fat, green slugs, down to the dull roar of traffic whizzing by on the freeway near where the trail crosses underneath Interstate 5 while following Highway 99 (4,240 ft).

Balls, Sunshine, and Butterfly met us at the trailhead and drove us back to the Mount Ashland campground (6,480 ft) so we could all camp together. Sierra and Butterfly dashed away up the mountain the moment we arrived at camp. After a few moments' hesitation and concern for the younger girls, Sunshine scampered up the hill to join them. The three of them returned just before dark, hungry and excited about climbing to the top of Mount Ashland (7,500 ft).

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